Mississauga Councillor Docked Pay Following Racially-Insensitive Comments


Published July 15, 2018 at 1:26 pm


A Mississauga and Peel Regional councillor has been reprimanded for comments that were deemed racially insensitive after other councillors voted on a recommendation from the Region’s Integrity Commissioner to dock her five days pay and send her to sensitivity training.

Mississauga Ward 5 councillor Carolyn Parrish had sent a series of text messages to fellow councillor Sue McFadden, the chair of the Peel Police Services Board, regarding an officer who addressed Parrish’s residents at a community meeting back in February regarding the closure of a police station in Malton.

“It seems being black and female qualifies people for promotion which is dead wrong,” said Parrish in one text, adding that the officer, now deputy chief Ingrid Berkeley-Brown, did not seem qualified or knowledgeable enough to answer questions from her residents.

The IC concluded that McFadden assumed Parrish was trying to influence the nomination process for deputy chief, to which Parrish said she had no idea who the officer was or even that she was up for promotion. Parrish apologized in a letter sent to Peel Regional Council and again during the July 12 Regional Council meeting which voted on the IC’s recommendations.

“I want to apologize for the only sentence in my career that I’ve ever regretted stating,” Parrish said, acknowledging previously colourful comments about Americans and other ones she made which she proudly stood by. “It’s not how I think, it’s not how I feel, and I don’t want to make excuses. I imagine it’s more devastating to Deputy Chief Berkeley-Brown than it is to me.”

“There was no substance behind my comments, they mean nothing,” Parrish continued, stating that she read through the deputy chief’s record of her career, and that for her comments to have affected Berkeley-Brown’s most joyous moment (rising to the rank of deputy chief) made the councillor very regretful as to what transpired.

While councillors eventually voted to move the recommendation to dock Parrish’s pay for five days and send her to sensitivity training, a number of them voted against it, saying that it seems only one side of the story is being told and things were taken out of context, and that a private conversation was made public by McFadden when it should have stayed private.

Many councillors also expressed regret over how the deputy chief was publicly embarrassed over the incident, saying that she was an exemplary role model for the force.

“I have the utmost respect for the brave women and men who dedicate their lives to helping keep our community safe,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in this statement. “I also have full confidence that Peel Police’s hiring practices are based on merit and that Deputy Chief Berkley-Brown is more than deserving of this well-earned promotion. I congratulate her on achieving this distinguished post and look forward to continuing to work with her to enhance community safety in our City.

“While I know Councillor Parrish regrets her comments and has publicly apologized, like all elected officials, she must be held accountable for her actions,” Crombie continued, adding that she voted in favour of the IC’s recommendations, saying the incident is clear proof that more needs to be done to build more tolerant and inclusive workplaces in Peel.

The President of the Peel Regional Police Association (the police union) Adrian Woolley made a deputation prior to Parrish’s comments, the debate and the subsequent vote, and he was scathing in his remarks over the incident.

“As the president of the police association, I feel I must defend the integrity of every member of the Peel Regional Police, be they front line officers or civilian staff. I have to call out Carolyn Parrish for her vile, racist and hateful comments that were directed at a female police officer, a member of a visible minority community and who happens to be the highest ranking black female officer in Canada.”

“This is a changing Peel community and we must change with it. As the president, what I am supposed to tell a first year black female constable with aspirations to become a senior officer? What’s even more concerning is that this venom comes from an elected official; Carolyn used derogatory language about police officers in the past, yet she begs for more officers in Malton every single time,” Woolley said, asking the councillors to hold Parrish accountable.

Woolley continued in a series of tweets about the subject, and his reactions after the councillors voted.

He continued with more forceful criticisms of some of the councillors reactions to the IC report and how the texts were made public, such as Mississauga councillor Pat Saito.

He even took a swipe at Brampton mayor Linda Jeffrey.

Peel police released this statement from Deputy Chief Ingrid Berkeley-Brown on the Integrity Commissioner’s report:

On February 23, 2018, I became aware that Mississauga City Councillor Carolyn Parrish made disparaging comments regarding my participation in a community meeting about the decision to close the Malton Community Police Station in her ward.  The comments not only attacked my performance at the meeting, but were discriminatory, bringing into question my character and Peel Regional Police promotional practises.

The comments were offensive to me and many of my colleagues at the Peel Regional Police. For the past 32 years, I have worked diligently alongside my fellow officers and with members of our community to ensure Peel Region remains a safe and inclusive community. Peel Region is one of the most diverse communities in Canada and I am proud of that. The suggestion that my promotion to Deputy Chief or Superintendent was based on my race or gender is an affront to the values of the Peel Regional Police and something I take very seriously.

I am aware of and support the findings outlined in the Report of Peel Region’s Integrity Commissioner.

I would like to thank Police Services Board Chair Sue McFadden for having the courage to bring this forward to the Police Services Board and for their decision to file a complaint. I would also like to thank Chief Jennifer Evans and members of the Chief’s Management Group, Adrian Woolley, the President of the Peel Regional Police Association and my fellow officers and civilian employees for their continuous support.

The councillors that voted not to reprimand Parrish include Mississauga councillors George Carlson, Dave Cook, Pat Saito, and Brampton councillors John Sprovieri and Elaine Moore.

As one councillor said, this is one of those so-called ‘teachable moments’ when it comes to understanding the issues of race. But in all honesty, when you look around that council table and virtually 99 per cent of them are white, it’s clear that it might be hard for some of them to understand what it is like to live in a person of colour’s world and understand what stinging comments like that do to you.

Let’s hope all the councillors, who said they would take the sensitive training along with Parrish, can learn something from all this.

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